(Ellie in front of the house that Morris (actually Phillips) built in 1765)
A new New Yorker, me, and a Native New Yorker, Ellie, went to the Morris-Jumel Mansion in Washington Heights today both having never heard of it before. How could that be? How could we not have known of a house that is still standing that George Washington lived in for 5 weeks?! In New York City?! How can that be? Granted that man slept everywhere, but mere subway stops from my house?!
The mansion has been open as a museum since the early part of the last century and here we are in 2009 saying "Really, such a place exists?"
Well, I am here to spread the word that this museum of American and New York history is alive and well and accessible to all by public transport and well worth this visit.
A colleague of mine at BAFTA East Coast raved about this house to me and I told Ellie and off we went. And now I rave about it to you.
You can read about its history here so I won't go into to much of it, but I do want to say that looking into a dining room where George dined with John Adams (my fave!) , Thomas Jefferson, and John Quincy Adams. Alexander Hamilton and Henry Knox was electric. I could see the ghosts around the table like I was in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.
(Oh, and Madame Jumel married Aaron Burr after her husband died and after Aaron Burr had shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel in Weehawken, New Jersey in 1804, which was of course after he dined here! To sum up, one man dined here who would eventually be killed by another man who would live here.)
On Saturdays at noon they have a guided tour which I recommend. Our tour guide, Noreen, was so personable and knowledgeable and lovely. We both fell in love with her and one man suggested she personally write the definitive book on the life of Madame Jumel and we agree.
Noreen gets us going outside this Palladian structure.
A milestone at the mansion that says:
“11 miles from New York on the Kingsbridge Road, the City History Club, 1912.”
So far out of town was Washington Heights at the time that it was a summer home! As Noreen said, the area was the "Hamptons of its day."
Carol, the Dir of Education and Public Programs and Barbara, the gatekeeper are both so nice and helpful. They even directed us where to eat afterwards.
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE
Across the street from the Morris-Jumel Mansion is Sylvan Terrace, a short block of wooden row houses built in 1882.
and at No. 16 Jumel Terrace is Paul Robeson's house.